The Women Killed or Detained in Iran’s Protests

Teenage girls and women fueled nationwide protests across Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, 2022. The demonstrations quickly evolved into calls for the ouster of the Supreme Leader and an end to the Islamic Republic. They challenged basic tenets of the theocracy by removing headscarves required by law. The slogan—and subsequent hashtag—became “Women, life, freedom.” During the first three weeks, security forces killed at least 150 people—including girls as young as 16—and detained or injured thousands. On October 5, a senior Revolutionary Guards official claimed that the average age of the protesters was fifteen.

Majidi at grave
Daughter of the late Minoo Majidi

The victims have included schoolgirls, a video-blogger, a mother, a mountain climbing enthusiast, and a hairdresser coming from a dentist appointment. Some were shot by security forces at protests, while others showed signs of being beaten. “Mahsa Amini is one among countless victims of the Islamic Republic’s war on women,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran. “The government is responsible for her death and decades of women being harassed, detained and otherwise harmed under the guise of this discriminatory, inhuman law.”

The regime has also detained many women activists in Iranian civil society as well as revolutionary insiders such as Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. It has picked up female students, a poet-songwriter, and journalists such as Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, who provided early reporting on Amini’s death. The following is a list of a few of the deaths and detentions amassed by Human Rights Watch, the Center for Human Rights in Iran, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

 

 

Deaths (in chronological order)

Hajar Abbasi, 70, was reportedly wounded in direct fire from security forces in northwestern Mahabad on September 19. He death was announced a day later.

Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old girl from Khorramabad, disappeared at a protest in Tehran on September 20. She messaged a friend that the police were chasing her down a street. Her family was summoned to retrieve her body from a detention center morgue on September 29. Her body was reportedly covered with “stitches and signs of physical assault.” The government claimed that she fell from a four-story building. Security officials reportedly took her body to bury secretly to avoid an emotional public funeral. Officials reportedly intimidated relatives to change their account of how Shakarami died.

 

Minoo Majidi, a 62-year-old mother of two, was reportedly killed by security forces at a local protest in western Kermanshah on September 20.

Ghazaleh Chelavi, a 32-year-old mountain climber, reportedly died in a confrontation between protesters and security forces in northern Amol, near the Caspian coast, on September 20.

Hananaeh Kia, a 23-year-old hairdresser who was recently engaged, was killed by security forces while walking home from a dentist appointment in Nowshahr on September 21.

 

Hadis Najafi, a 22-year-old video blogger, was reportedly killed by security forces at a protest in Karaj, near Tehran, on September 21. Her family claimed that security forces pressured them to say that she died of a heart attack. Her sister posted a video from Najafi’s funeral, which received more than 270,000 likes in less than one week.

Mahsa Mogouyi, 18, was reportedly killed in central Fouladshahr on September 22.

Sarina Esmaelzadeh, 16, reportedly died after being beaten by security forces at a protest in Karaj on September 23. In a video after finishing school exams, shortly before her death, Esmaelzadeh said, “Nothing feels better than freedom.” The government claimed that Esmaelzadeh committed suicide by jumping off of a building. Security officials supervised Esmaelzadeh’s funeral to avoid a possible protest.

 

Detainees (in chronological order)

Leila Mirghaffari, a civil rights activist, was reportedly detained and beaten on September 16 in Tehran while protesting outside Kasra hospital, where Amini died. Officials charged her with “assembly and collusion” and released her on bail on September 18. Mirghaffari was detained again on September 29 after she spoke out on the mistreatment of detainees.

Yalda Moaiery, an influential photojournalist whose work appeared in Time and Newsweek, was detained on September 19 while documenting protests in Tehran. In Instagram posts, Moaiery claimed that security forces beat her and shoved her into a police van with tens of female protesters. “In the event that anything happens to me [while in custody] it is the responsibility of the ruling system,” she said. Mojaiery was reportedly held at Qarchak prison, a notorious women’s prison.

 

Niloofar Hamedi, a reporter for the reformist Shargh who had been reporting on Iran’s morality police, was detained on September 22 for her early coverage of Amini’s hospitalization and death three days later. She was detained in solitary confinement at Tehran’s Evin Prison, she told her husband in a telephone call on Sept. 24. “If it weren’t for her courage, the tragic incident that happened to Mahsa Amini would not have been reported to the media so quickly,” a colleague told Middle East Eye.

Elmira Bahmani, a sociology student and gender equality activist, was detained in northern Rasht, along the Caspian coast, on September 26.

Faezeh Hashemi, a reformist who represented Tehran in Parliament from 1996 to 2000, was detained on September 27 for “inciting riots.” She is the eldest daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In 1998, she founded and edited Zan, the first woman’s daily newspaper, which was forced to close in 1999. In 2009, she was arrested after addressing a Green Movement protest over a fraudulent presidential election and was subsequently barred from leaving the country. Hashemi was arrested again three times between 2009 and 2017. In 2012, she was sentenced to six months for “spreading propaganda against the system.” In 2017, she was sentenced to another six months on the same charge.

Mona Borzouie, a poet and songwriter, was detained on September 28 for her poem supporting Amini and the protests.

Elahe Mohammadi, a reporter for the Hammihan Daily, was detained on September 29 for her coverage of Amini’s funeral.

Bahareh Hedayat, a well-known activist, student leader and former political prisoner, was detained on October 3 during protests in Tehran. Hedayat had previously been imprisoned multiple times, including in 2020 for protesting after the IRGC shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines flight.

 

 

Connor Bradbury, a senior program assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace, assembled this report.